Letters and Replies, Fall 2009 - The Objective Standard

To the authors of “‘Just War Theory’ vs. American Self-Defense”:

I enjoyed your critique of “Just War Theory,” your clear identification of the fact that our enemy is Islamic Totalitarianism, and your demonstration that we are fighting a limited war while our opponents are fighting a total war (TOS, Spring 2006). Since the 2001 attacks, it has become common belief in military circles that this conflict will define our generation and possibly the next. Your article has helped me to realize that the conflict need not be ambiguous or long.

I do have some questions, however, on the appropriate uses of preemptive attack, WMDs, and torture. You come out strongly in favor of preemptive attacks on imminent threats, but how do you propose the decision to attack be made? Surely something more than a judgment call by the president is required as there is no guarantee that a given president will exercise (or even possess) the judgment necessary to make such a call. The same question applies to the use of nuclear weapons or other WMDs, with the additional query: What constitutes a significant enough threat to necessitate the use of such weapons?

As for torture, do you hold that any and all interrogation techniques are fair game, or do you draw the line somewhere? Is it not logical to maintain a certain standard of conduct (e.g., observing the Geneva Convention) because doing so will make the fight easier in other ways, whereas having no standards at all would only serve to strengthen the resolve and determination of the enemy?

Allen Short, 1st Lt., USAF

Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein reply:

Dear Lt. Short,

Thank you for your letter. . . .

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